Impressions: Rust’s New Version

As of last month, developers Facepunch (headed by Garry Newman of Garry’s Mod fame) declared that what was previously known as ‘Experimental Mode’ is now the definitive version of Rust. It now launches by default on Steam, with an option to play on the old ‘Legacy’ servers instead if you’re not ready for change. Unfortunately, I don’t think the game’s quite ready itself.

Spawning in Rust used to entail waking up in the wilderness hungry, naked and alone with only a rock and torch to make your way in the world. In the latest build you spawn alone, naked, hungry and thirsty, with just a rock. My first life started on a border between a forest and the recently added arctic biome. With the most interesting thing nearby being a deer, I did the logical thing and caved its head in. I went on to harvest a ludicrous amount of cloth and animal bones as well as, inexplicably, some wolf meat and a wolf skull – before ironically being eaten by an actual wolf shortly after. Rust is a mean place, even without its human denizens.

Now running in version 5 of the Unity engine, that mean place is certainly prettier. Like other survival games of its ilk, there’s a large amount of downtime in Rust, meaning atmosphere counts for a lot. Wandering the landscape, searching for resources and hoping for chance encounters with strangers forms the bulk of the game. This wasn’t previously the case: one of the largest changes made across engines is to the map itself. Instead of a relatively small area focused around structures and a single ring-road placed by the devs, each server now hosts its own massive, procedurally generated world. It has the potential to create moments of discovery that fixed environments can’t manage, but currently the generated worlds looks too repetitive to properly deliver on that front. It also makes meeting up with friends a nightmare.

The increased world size comes with an increase in max player count, with the official servers all hosting up to 500 players. However, on average there’ll only be about 50 other Rusters running around at the same time, resulting in the world feeling kinda lonely. In my first few hours with the game, I only encountered a couple of other people – and they were all sleeping (in what remains one of Rusts’ finer features, logged out players remain in the world unconscious). In lieu of anything more interesting to do I took their stuff, filled their pockets with wolf skulls and moved on.

In contrast, after ten minutes of playing on Legacy mode a kid had invited me to move into the cave next door to him and his friend. After another ten minutes I’d fended off a naked attacker as he shouted gibberish down his mic, and would in quick succession go on a hunting trip in which I accidentally shot an arrow through my new acquaintance’s chest, and be forced at gunpoint to tea-bag a sleeping person we’d happened across in the wilderness. Ten minutes after that I was dead, shot in the back of the head by a stranger as my new friends and I sheltered around a campfire.

The change of pace might be deliberate, but I’m not sure it’s welcome. Legacy feels relentless, but new Rust can feel placid. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t also introduce numerous improvements. Perhaps most notably, better anti-cheat software has solved the hacking problem that plagued the old game. The second person I met in Legacy mode demonstrated this by enthusiastically flying 100 feet into the air. Depressingly, when I asked him why he cheated he said it was to protect himself from other hackers.

The devs are also expanding the survival elements of the game, adding new status effects such as ‘wet’. I owed one of my early deaths to hypothermia after I attempted to swim across an icy river. There’s still a long way to go: the only way to satisfy the new ‘thirst’ metre is just to eat as normal. As befitting an early access title, the systems are also in a constant state of flux, with some fun mechanics being patched out for the sake of balance. The ability to open an alive players inventory was recently removed, for example, resulting in me having to kill every sleeping player I see and ruining my ability to replace all their stuff with wolf skulls.

Crafting remains largely the same, though there are significant changes in the pipeline. The blueprint system is still in effect, where plans for items not in the basic set have to be found and learnt, but can then be built by subsequent characters after you die – providing you stick to the same server. It lends a sense of achievement that persists across otherwise doomed playthroughs. However, there’s worrying talk of introducing blueprints through random Steam drops that can then be traded. Despite the developer’s reassurances, it’s hard not to imagine the system rewarding larger wallets over invested playtime. The other side of crafting, base building, has been streamlined. It’s easier to quickly gather the resources needed to make a basic shelter, and to put it together. It can still be a daunting task though, as I found when I got bludgeoned to death from behind while my guard was down. Attempting to steal a house went little better.

I’d spawned next to a basic hut, warmth and light emanating from the inside thanks to a lit bonfire. Someone was home! Without any equipment to break my way inside, I figured my best bet was to wait outside and ambush the guy as he came out. I crept into some nearby bushes and settled in – only to realise someone else had had the same idea. Fortunately he’d logged off, leaving me free to take out his sleeping body and instantly acquire a good set of gear. After a bit more skulking, I realised that now I could probably just break in.

It took me two minutes to get through the roof. I dropped down, taking out my freshly pilfered spear in expectation of a fight – but the guy had vanished. His stuff was scattered around as if he’d purposefully dropped it before somehow disappearing. It didn’t matter to me: within five minutes I’d scored two inventories worth of loot and an entire house. All I needed to do was replace the code-locked door with my own. After an age of chopping, I’d destroyed the previous tenant’s handiwork. The door’s code-lock, however, remained hovering in place: bugged out. Without any way to build over it or destroy it, my move-in was thwarted.

Rust clearly has potential. Swapping to Unity seems to have been the right move for the devs, as in the long-term procedural worlds and larger server counts should bear fruit – but it’s too unstable in its current state to be enjoyed properly. As well as that glitch with the lock, I found animals frequently wouldn’t attack me, my framerate would slow to a crawl, and occasionally servers would simply disconnect me. Performance issues at least have been acknowledged on the regularly updated dev blog, so there’s reason to think the problems will be addressed and that, with more time, Rust may yet achieve the compelling blend of stranger management and freeform construction it’s aiming for.

27 Comments

  1. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I can’t help but feel that what they’ve created in a year is quite tragic when you see how much more complete legacy feels despite all it lacks.

  2. Blitzy07 says:

    Rust was always on the Unity engine, even the “Legacy” stuff. This is basically just them refactoring everything else.

  3. SquareWheel says:

    Didn’t Rust always use Unity as its engine? What did it use before in “Legacy” mode?

  4. Chuckleluck says:

    Did I understand that right? That when you’re logged off, you still have a sleeping body in game that can be robbed and killed? Because if so, that is a truly stupid feature. Punishing players for not spending every waking moment in-game?

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      It’s punishing but automagically fixes problems with logout exploits. Like ALT+F4 when in danger or build a house, log out while inside and wait for someone to move in and fill it with juicy stuff.

      (It creates the reverse problem though – griefing opportunities like smartasses walling you in to keep you as a pet).

      • Blackcompany says:

        First, I agree that is problematic. It should perhaps use Eve’s system, where you remain in game for several seconds to a minute or so, and then vanish. This would be I think a good compromise.

        Second: Press X to Gary Busey. You good sir or madame win the internet for today, as far as I am concerned.

        • Tokidoki says:

          FYI there has been no experience in my video gaming life that matches the excitement, adrenaline pumping fear and sense of brotherhood that myself and my friends experienced playing rust, logging on at alternate times, defending the base in absolute terror that someone else would break down our door and slaughter our sleeping friends.

          Then the absolute fun it was to C4 down the wall of someone elses’ base, the ridiculous tactical choices you took scouting out the perfect location to break in from to maximize the profit from a single explosive, as they played the continually more elaborate game of building fake rooms, sleeping areas far protected from everything else, treasure rooms full of nothing but worthless materials, and walls. Then that satisfaction when you finally find where they’re all curled up in a pile and beat them to death as they sleep.

          There was no better feeling, and there was no worse feeling than waking up and realizing it had been done to you. Crawling your way back to the shelled out remains of the fortress your team had failed to defend.

          Rust is a game of Highs and Lows, and taking away the penalties takes away what must have been one of the best games of 2013.

          • smokiespliff says:

            Everything you just said is so very definitely true.

          • Kitsunin says:

            And then you remember you have a life, play for just an hour or so each day, with weekends off, only playing at the same time as your friends, and…there’s no point even bothering.

            Bluh, I mean I don’t mind that such unforgiving games exist, but my kingdom for a roleplay heavy game which respects my time!

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        Wisq says:

        To be fair: Technically, all they would logically need to wall you in is to know where you logged out. But obviously that’s made a lot easier when you’re right there.

    • Beefsurgeon says:

      I think the sleeping mechanic actually works well, not so much punishing the player as requiring them to plan ahead. The location and construction of your shelter has a big impact on the odds of you getting looted/murdered while logged off.

      • Heavens says:

        With the “fucktard”-mentality a lot of people have when it comes to this kind of survival games you will end up getting your sleeping body violated eventually. Players will tear down your house to get to you because they can and it’s “fun”.
        But I feel it takes the focus away from the other things you’d have to survive. Getting backstabbed by another player is a much bigger threat than hunger, thirst and bloody animals combined.
        It’s kinda like Alien: Isolation when you get spotted by an android while the alien is breathing down your neck.

  5. J. Cosmo Cohen says:

    I had a good, solid 20 hours of fun with Legacy and haven’t been compelled to touch it since. Heck, I’d even forgotten I bought it. Maybe after the new version fixes some things I might try it again.

    On the other hand, I think I might enjoy a more single player focused survival game, and seeing as The Long Dark is currently half price, I might go with that.

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    joekiller says:

    I can’t tell when you actually played this and wrote the article. It has been stated since the blueprints were announced that they would be cosmetic changes to items already on a server. So if you have a shirt model that is red, you could have a community made blue shirt that you can make when you get the ability to craft that default shirt on a given server. People can’t steal or make things in your steam backpack.

    Also looting isn’t in the game right now. Building had a huge upgrade more recently and the animals have a bit more AI.

    That said, rust seems to take 2 steps forward and a step back every week with their updates. They fix some stuff, the regress many stuff. They fix for 3 days then they enhance for 2.

    Right now the spear insta-kills anyone so watch out and make a spear. It is like every week there is some crazy breaking bug that screws up the overall gameplay and the real problem is that servers have to wipe everything each major update or when it just gets way out of sync. There are some really bad bugs in there now. Rust is pretty fun literally right now, but who knows if the devs will blow it up next week.

    Play rust for a few hours. Build a house, kill some people but don’t build a massive tower or collect a ton of stuff, you will lose it on the wipe and be sad. Rust isn’t ready to outplay legacy right now.

  7. aergistal says:

    I wonder if the authors of this game are familiar with Philip José Farmer work. If not they should start reading up a bit. To your scattered bodies go!

  8. Madhh says:

    I have no idea who told you guys this game was out, and finished. This is still alpha, with fps issues, lack of numerous features, wipes make it pointless to play, etc. Why the hell would you write a preview of an alpha?

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      Craig Pearson says:

      Because we’re charging money for it.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        This isn’t even a review. It says “impressions” with an implicit “thus far.”

        My question is why even respond to blatant fuckwits? Are you really on the dev team for Rust? If so, why do developers spend more time arguing with trolls than answering actual game play questions?

        • SuicideKing says:

          Woah! Craig’s on the Rust dev team? That’s pretty cool!

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          Craig Pearson says:

          There’s a whole lot of assumptions in what you just wrote. I do work for FP, and though I have some input into the game, there are others better suited to answering those questions.

          As to why I answered that question? Because I had an answer.

          • Madhh says:

            I know, but this is BS, they are comparing the new Rust to the old one, that was in a much more developed state. They talk about fps issues, bugs and stuff. I don’t know man, this game is not in the state for a preview. I for one bought this game, because I want to support the development, because I see a lot of potential, and it gets better and better. These are more like donations, or like pre-orders, or like backing on Kickstarter. I gladly give you my money, because I know this will be fantastic game.
            I don’t know, I’m still pissed at rps, because of that Space Hulk “review”. And now they are treating Rust like it was close to be released.

            edit: “but it’s too unstable in its current state to be enjoyed properly.” This one sentence just pisses me off. To be enjoyed PROPERLY? An alpha? Are you kidding?

          • Vapor_Strike says:

            The only thing I want to point out, Madhh, is that you said “they are comparing the new Rust to the old one, that was in a much more developed state.”

            Technically, when FP replaced Legacy with the Experimental version as the default Rust, they were saying that the experimental version is now better/more complete than Legacy. Otherwise, it would not have replaced it.
            (Correct me if I’m wrong, FP, but then again, if I am wrong, you guys should also correct yourselves, as if you feel the game is less complete than Legacy, it shouldn’t be the default version yet.)

            Although, I do believe RPS is being slightly ignorant at the moment with the blueprint issue, as I’m fairly sure we already cleared this up in a devblog sometime ago. (It was perfectly clear for me when it was first announced, but the second devblog about it should have been more than enough for anyone, especially a reputable gaming news site.)

          • Madhh says:

            I have to correct you. Garry said it in a devblog, that they are making the experimental the new rust now, not because it’s more developed than the old rust, but to make it like a kick in the arse, so they feel the pressure, and they feel they have to release more updates faster. And he has a point TBH. Even if it’s not ready yet to take the place of legacy, it is getting better and better. It is almost enjoyable now. I ‘ve started to play a lot nowdays.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      You must be new to the video game review industry.